Does homeowners insurance cover mold?

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Mold is more than just a smelly eyesore – it can also cause serious problems to your home and your health. Some types of molds cause more problems than others. While everyday household mold can slowly spread year-round in some climates, it can grow out of control following a calamity that causes water damage to your home.

Performing regular cleaning and home maintenance is the best way to control everyday mold. But if disaster strikes and you need professional mold removal, will your homeowners insurance cover the cost? It’s important to understand your home insurance coverage before you attempt to file a claim.

Does home insurance cover mold?

In most cases, homeowners insurance policies do not cover mold damage. When you purchase a homeowners insurance policy, your insurer will outline the named perils that are covered by your policy. Generally, named perils such as fire and smoke, hail, explosions, vandalism, theft and falling objects are covered. Water damage and its secondary effects (like mold) are a little trickier and whether your policy will cover that damage usually depends on the source of the damage. Because mold remediation can cost up $10 to $25 per square foot, purchasing an optional mold rider may be a worthwhile investment if your insurance carrier offers that coverage.

Mold caused by covered perils

If your home is damaged by a covered peril and results in mold, your homeowners policy may provide coverage. For example, if a storm breaks a window in your home, causing rainwater to soak your floors and walls leading to a mold outbreak, your policy may pay to remedy the damage because the storm was a named peril. Similarly, if a burst pipe causes extensive water damage and results in mold, your homeowners policy may provide coverage to remove the mold as part of the mitigation effort to restore your property. Any coverage would be subject to your deductible and any mold coverage limit applied by your property insurer.

Mold caused by flooding

Flooding is one of the main causes of mold damage because it can be a lengthy amount of time after a flood before mitigation efforts begin. According to the EPA, mold growth can begin within 24-48 hours after flood damage. Unfortunately, flood damage is not a named peril covered by a standard homeowners policy. The Federal Emergency Management Agency makes flood insurance available through its National Flood Insurance Program, but the coverage may exclude mold damage.

Mold caused by sewer backup

Water damage caused by a sewer backup is not a covered peril on a standard homeowners policy. However, most property insurers will offer an optional sewer backup as an endorsement. If you have purchased the sewer backup add-on, your policy may extend coverage to mold resulting from the sewer backup through the mitigation process, but generally, mold caused by a sewer backup is not covered. In this case, you may want to inquire about a separate mold rider or mold policy.

Mold caused by negligence

Home insurance companies usually deny claims when the investigation determines that negligence caused the damage. Negligence is not a named peril, and therefore mold damage caused by it would not be covered under your homeowners policy. For example, if your dishwasher is leaking and you do not tend to it right away, any resulting damage from the leak can be denied by your insurer, leaving you to pay out of pocket for the repairs.

How to file mold insurance claims

You can file a mold claim the same way you file a regular homeowners insurance claim, with a few slight adjustments. To improve your chances of a successful claim, you need to take every step possible to prevent mold from forming. That way, the claims adjuster can see that you’ve acted responsibly to mitigate the damage, even if unavoidable mold begins to form. Before filing a claim:

  • Dry all affected areas as quickly and thoroughly as possible
  • Stop leaking pipes by shutting off the water to your house
  • Remove soaked items such as carpeting, furniture, insulation and mattresses
  • Open doors and windows and use fans to promote faster drying
  • Clean all affected areas with detergent to prevent bacteria spread
  • Cover damaged areas such as a hole in the roof or a broken window
  • Take photos of all damage, including closeups and wide shots
  • Contact your insurance agent to file a claim

If your policy doesn’t exclude mold damage for covered losses, it’s best to separate the mold repair expenses from other repair costs. For example, if storm damage soaks the drywall in your bedroom and mold forms, the contractor likely will charge you a mold remediation fee. List the mold remediation fee separately from the drywall removal costs. By separating the expenses, you can minimize the risk of a claim denial if the insurer doesn’t want to pay for mold remediation.

How to prevent mold in your home

Mold is more than a household headache; it can cause serious health problems, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with allergies, diseases that weaken the immune system and respiratory diseases face the highest mold-related health risks.

It’s almost impossible to keep your home mold-free all the time, but with proper maintenance, you can prevent mold from getting out of hand. Often, you can smell the musty odor of mold before you see it or feel a slimy substance when you touch surfaces. Dry mold can grow in linens and pillows and form around dressers, shelves and heating and cooling vents. To prevent mold, regularly follow a few lifestyle and maintenance tips:

  • Dry spills immediately
  • Regularly check pipes and appliance hoses for leaks and replace hoses before they spring a leak if possible
  • Clean surfaces like bathroom tile and ceramic floors with mold-killing products, like bleach
  • Install exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms
  • Maintain a humidity level of 30% to 60% inside your home
  • Paint walls and ceilings with paint that contains mold inhibitors
  • Remove carpets from damp areas, like bathrooms and basements
  • Don’t allow water to accumulate in water reservoirs of house plants
  • Inspect your roof and attic for water seepage and promptly make repairs as necessary
  • Clean debris from gutters to ensure proper water drainage
  • Seal windows and doors to prevent seepage and keep out moisture

Frequently asked questions

How much does it cost to get rid of mold in your home?

Mold remediation is expensive, typically costing $10 to $25 per square foot.

How long does it take to get rid of mold in a house?

The time it takes to remove mold will depend on the extent of the mold outbreak. For normal household mold that grows around sinks and in bathrooms, you can remove it within a few minutes during your weekly house cleaning routine. But if you allow mold to spread, it could result in an outbreak that could require many hours or days of professional mold removal.

What do you do if your mold claim is denied?

If mold isn’t listed as an exclusion in your homeowners insurance policy and the provider denies your claim, you can appeal the ruling with the insurer. If you believe the insurer has treated you unfairly, you may also file a complaint with your state’s department of insurance or the Better Business Bureau. Unfortunately, if your home insurance policy lists mold damage as an exclusion, you’ll likely have no recourse if the insurer denies a mold damage claim.

Does homeowners insurance cover mold caused by flood damage?

No. Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage or a mold outbreak caused by flood damage. You can purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, but unfortunately, it doesn’t cover mold damage, either.

Written by
Michael Evans
Personal Finance Contributor
Michael Evans has worked in numerous industries, including education, finance, government, insurance and journalism. He began writing professionally while working for the world's first online mortgage brokerage in San Francisco, California. His writings have appeared in print and online publications, including Fox Business, International Living, Motley Fool and Yahoo Finance. Michael has contributed to Bankrate since 2013. He and his family divide their time between residences in Northern California and Colombia. When Michael is not writing, he enjoys working in his photography business and playing with his cat, Cyndi Lou.
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